Channel Zero – Season 2, Episode 5: “The Damage”

Syfy’s Channel Zero
Season 2, Episode 5: “The Damage”
Directed by Steven Piet
Written by Harley Peyton & Lisa Long

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Exit” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Hollow Girl” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 11.23.14 AMMargot (Amy Forsyth) and Jules (Aisha Dee) drive away from the No-End House, seemingly free from its haunting horrors. They’re out again. However, they’ve got no idea that John (John Carroll Lynch) escaped with them. On top of it all, the house was feeding on their memories, they barely have any left.
Speaking of John, he’s out lurking around someone’s backyard, waving to the little girls. A concerned dad comes out to confront him, so John goes on his way. A cannibal, feeding off the memories of others, out in the real world.
When they head back to Margot’s place, the girls are both freaked out. Their memories all slipping away. Margot calls her mom (Corrine), they get to talking: mom reveals dad’s death by allergy, his actual suicide, helped them in a dire financial team, allowing them to keep the house. A terrifying sacrifice to save his family.
Im sure he did it for us
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 11.28.04 AMKnowing the truth doesn’t set Margot free, she’s weighed down by it. She doesn’t want to keep carrying the burden of knowing. Jules talks about the previous summer, after John’s death. She hated seeing Margot “getting attacked by a beast” mentally, in brutal pain; she admits to running away from it, her friend. Meanwhile, just outside, dad is lurking, and he’s very, very hungry. Ravenous, in fact.
Out of nowhere, Seth (Jeff Ward) arrives, warning Jules: “Hes in the house.” Dear ole dad slips in while Margot sleeps. He’s feeding again, draining those memories while she rests. Memories of her old dog. And soon enough, a black puddle on the floor opens up, birthing an eerie looking thing. One which John starts tearing apart to eat. Seth cracks him over the head. They’re all worried about him being out in the real world.
Dad wants a family again. Margot doesn’t want to be fed upon anymore. They’re not sure what to do with this… creation. They’re not free from the No-End House if it follows them out into the world. She asks him to go into the basement until they can figure it all out.
But papa ain’t happy. And he’ll just get hungrier.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 11.36.37 AMSeth tells Margot the only sure way to get John back into the No-End House is if she leads him. Fuck that. Neither she or Jules is willing to go back there. It could mean getting trapped inside, all over again. If the house disappears for another year, dad is left in the real world, and who knows what’ll happen then. So, they might have to “kill him.” A cruel twist of fate: losing your dad to suicide, then having to kill him, too. We also hear more of Seth, discussing his life back at the house; those people caged in the suburb were his family, he couldn’t hurt them and he locked them away for protection.
Poor Jules isn’t well, either. That fleshy orb knows where she’s gone, she made a connection with it. She’s starting to slip between reality and the world of No-End House. Can she actually ever escape? Or is the house a part of her, and the rest of them, now?
Upstairs, Seth and Margot allow John to eat more of the memory dog. He digs in, feeding. A disgusting scene. They sit and wait to see how it goes. She wants to see what her memories “feel like,” so dad lets her hold the dog’s head. He talks about their past, camping, happier memories. This is when John begins succumbing to the medication Seth put in his food. He must die again, as his daughter watches the death. In a way, it’s like a grim healing process. Because she only saw the aftermath before his suicide, now she sees the other side. They’ve got to get John back to the house before it’s gone, as well. Doesn’t help things when mom gets home in the middle of it all, and John is still alive. He gets up and starts throwing everyone around, chasing after his daughter.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 11.48.56 AMJohn starts feeding off Margot’s memories again, as Seth grabs him off her. But this only leads dad to nearly jamming his finger through the guy’s head. Finally, Margot pleads with him, agreeing to go back to No-End House with him. And poor ole mom, she has no idea what’s been going on, waking up from being knocked out by her formerly living husband.
Now, Margot, Seth, and John head back to No-End House.
Across town, Jules is still trying to figure out her own life, the memories all faded and the real world blending with that of the house. She’s nearly driven mad, and she starts running down the street. But when she gets to where No-End House recently appeared to the others, it isn’t there anymore.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.04.59 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.07.06 PMA favourite of mine, this episode really digs into all the disturbing memory stuff. Can’t wait for the finale. Not sure how it’ll end. But that’s what makes Channel Zero so damn good! “The Hollow Girl” is next.

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Channel Zero – No End House, Episode 4: “The Exit”

Syfy’s Channel Zero
Season 2, Episode 4: “The Exit”
Directed by Steven Piet
Written by Nick Antosca & Katie Gruel

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Beware the Cannibals” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Damage” – click here
IMG_0316Margot (Amy Forsyth) and Seth (Jeff Ward) wake the next day, after becoming intimate. Dylan (Sebastian Pigott) is still trying to show Lacey (Jess Salgueiro) the truth about what’s happening, that they’re actually married; however, that’s just us going on what he’s said, it isn’t necessarily true. Although currently his word, the strangeness of the No-End House, these are all we have to go on.
Of course it gets a bit nasty because she’s “not remembering anything” and she’s attacked him with his own knife. And out in the middle of the nearby neighbourhood is still that cul-de-sac, a group of people stuck inside. Everybody else is strange, like they’re all lost. Of course, they are, in various ways. “Theyre part of the house,” Dylan tells them, and they’re not keen on the group’s trying to leave. A parade of people follow behind them as they go.
Naturally, one of them is John (John Carroll Lynch), who’s looking paler, more awful than ever. He heads further after them while the rest of the neighbourhood stays behind.
IMG_0317On their way, in a field, the group finds a decimated man lying on the ground. He’s one of the cannibals, unable to feed and wasting away. JD (Seamus Patterson) questions Seth, as to why he hasn’t said anything about his peeling skin; the former threatens to expose the latter if he does say a word. Because something fishy’s going on, either way. Regardless if Seth is one of the doubles.
Soon they come across a corn maze. Within are people calling out, all kinds of them. They stop outside for the night and light a fire. Seth tells Margot he’s not who she believes him to be; “someone who doesnt belong.” He claims he lives in this place, or that he came there before and that living there can “be beautiful.” Meanwhile, Dylan ties JD to Lacey as he goes to check out noises in the dark. Then a woman comes from out of the darkness, digging her fingers into Lacey’s eye sockets before walking back into nowhere. This is when an angry, grief-stricken Dylan sees the withering skin on JD’s arm.
Dylan stabs him, telling the others to keep away. “Hes not real,” Seth says. So Dylan lights the cannibal JD on fire while they all run into the maze. Yet Margot tells them all that Seth lives there, that he can’t come. But now they’re all divided, so many eerie things culminating at once. Not to mention surrounding them in the corn maze is a sea of lost voices, calling out to their loved ones.
IMG_0319IMG_0320Soon they’re all lost themselves. Margot can’t find Jules (Aisha Dee) anymore. Then she comes across one of those black pools, a person materialising out of it. She stumbles onto her friend touching another big, fleshy orb. She takes Jules away from it; simultaneously, we see the person sinking back into that black pool of blood-like substance.
Just as they get away, dad shows up to plead with Margot. He needs a taste. To tide him over, y’know. He needs something on which to subsist, a cannibal, a junkie. He tells his daughter to flee before anything bad happens, so she does, with Jules in tow.
John: “Im only a reflection that lived in you
The remaining trio come to the No-End House. Where Dylan says they have to go on alone. He wants to burn the place to the ground. Inside they find more of the masks, only this time a bit different; each of their faces is a mask with a cracked open head, one hand hauling a dark face out from within, a visual metaphor of what we’ve been seeing already. They go further, into Room 2. The place goes dark, when the light returns a black pool expands across the floor almost like it’s alive, chasing them both, spreading in arm-like streams. Jules attempts jumping across to Margot. They manage to get out as the pool takes over the whole room.
Outside, Dylan’s not so lucky. John finds him, sinking a knife in his guts and ripping his throat open. Leaving him to die in the grass, as dad heads on towards his daughter.


Margot and Jules hear more of the Russian, an old teacher of theirs; the old woman writes DON’T GO over and over across a chalkboard. Except it isn’t an old woman, it’s the creepy man from the hallway, from Margot’s earlier visit. He tries hauling her away, but Jules pulls her back to the next room with her.
This takes them into the gruesome sounds of John’s death by allergy, a mask of his swollen face in front of the girls. He chokes and coughs and sucks for air. A nasty experience. Finally, they make it to Room 5. “We got this,” Jules assures her friend. In there is a bloated, ghostly version of John, in a living room but with a bathtub. He runs his hands through the water, silent. Afterwards he lurches for a hug.
But the girls escape, out into the open air. They don’t see the white flowers anymore, instead a normal dandelion. Dudes are out front trying to get in, so Margot and Jules tell them the house is “finished eating.” They head back to normal life, in a normal neighbourhood. As if none of it ever happened.
Problem is, John’s escaped, as well. He has come back to the world. That can’t be good.
IMG_0326Oh, this is probably my favourite episode now! Wow. Just incredible how Channel Zero consistently ups its game. And here I was concerned there was no way they’d be able to do better than Season 1. Pfft. Amazing.
“The Damage” is up to bat next week.

KILLBILLIES: Men, Monsters, Women

Idila (English title: Killbillies). 2016. Directed & Written by Tomaz Gorkic.
Starring Nina Ivanisin, Lotos Sparovec, Nika Rozman, Sebastian Cavazza, Jurij Drevensek, Manca Ogorevc, Damjana Cerne, Matic Bobnar, & Damir Leventic.
666 Production/Blade Production/NuFrame.
Rated R. 83 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
posterArtsploitation Films have been generous enough over the past few months, sending me Blu ray and DVD screeners for a bunch of films. I’m an honest critic in my writing, and some of what they’ve sent me I haven’t been keen on come review time. That being said, some of it is great, too.
When I first saw the trailer for Killbillies, I rolled my eyes. Thought: here we go again. When the movie started rolling the only thing I expected to love was the atmosphere, the cinematography and the music made for an impressive feel. But as the film kept going, the writing from director-writer Tomaz Gorkic subverted my expectations. Because when you go in for backwoods horror, specifically the kind involving inbred-looking cannibals or any similarly styled characters, there’s usually an idea of what you’ll get in the end.
Killbillies is fun, creepy. There’s also a few real great effects done practically that make this horror much better than films of its kind which instead use tired CGI. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t perfect. Some of the dialogue was weak, not every performance is as good as others. Overall, this is one hell of a backwoods horror. It puts many American movies of the same sub-genre to shame. Not only that, Gorkic’s film is the first horror totally shot and produced out of Slovenia. Instead of sludging through the same old American South we’ve seen a million times, the beautiful landscape of places like Jezersko, Predel, Fort Hermann and other Slovenian locations provide a backdrop for all the hillbilly gruesomeness to come.
Best of all? These aren’t the same cannibal hillbillies you’re used to, no: these guys will make liquor out of your brains!
screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-9-20-08-pmscreen-shot-2016-10-18-at-9-20-58-pmRight off the bat there’s grim atmosphere. A terribly low, guttural organ chord rings deep in the background. Starts things out dark just on sound alone. The score is a recurring piece of atmosphere that makes things feel proper ominous. Not just score, either. The sound design is terrific. One moment I love is the first time we come across the old woman hillbilly and her accordion playing sidekick. The sound design sort of builds with this chilling sound like the swarm of a thousand flies, you almost can’t tell if it’s strings or what it is, but regardless of whether it’s ambient noise building up or multiple stringed instruments merging into one ball of noise, the result works and gives this moment an eerie weight. There are several scenes where the score is used to its maximum potential. Often, string music works us up to a couple false moments, expecting a jump scare, and then after a couple director Gorkic drops the hammer on his viewer with a brutal kill; not a big jump, a solid creep. Composer Davor Herceg has a few pieces that sound very typical to any ordinary horror. However, there are enough spectacular musical moments to overcome that, such as when the first hillbilly meets his end and the accompanying piano is a dark sound to match the darkness happening in front of our eyes.
In terms of the makeup and other effects, the hillbillies all look fairly nasty and just seeing them is scary enough. One of the main guys, his face is all puffed out, full of pus, his skin is reddened and bumpy. Some great prosthetic work. Once the killing starts, boy, do the effects get real fun! The first hillbilly death is disturbingly preceded by a near rape, and you feel like Gorkic is going the same route as every other American movie of its ilk. It’s a pivot, as what follows is the death of a villain, an awfully grisly one at that. Some good genre murder going on.
screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-9-21-21-pmscreen-shot-2016-10-18-at-9-23-04-pmWhat’s better than all that is how the hillbillies are introduced, which is what feels to have separated Killbillies from many of its American counterparts. These guys are downright terrifying. Yet instead of a big rush-in scene, they talk to the victims; something else that doesn’t always happen. When the time is right after their initial confrontation, the hillbillies act, and it’s scarier this way. Gorkic seems to do this often, to great effect – he lulls you into feeling things are going to be totally different, and for the most part they are, until that inevitable shocking murder breaks out. You know it’s coming, but how Gorkic allows us to get there is what’s enjoyable.
The actresses are one of the best elements. Not only the kick ass Zina (Nina Ivanisin) who becomes our breakout protagonist, there’s also Mia (Nika Rozman). This lady is perhaps the greatest performance, even above Ivanisin as Zina. Simply because of her reactions. As horror lovers, we’re jaded, some of us. Many like to say they wouldn’t react in a certain way if they were in a slasher or backwoods situation. What Rozman does is throw herself into the role, even if she isn’t the very lead like Ivanisin. After Mia and Zina are left in a cellar, having seen their friend get his head smashed open savagely, Mia absolutely breaks down. And it’s some of the better acting you can find in any backwoods horror movie, even the best. She trembles, she hyperventilates. You can genuinely imagine her, caught there in that cellar. It’s shockingly heavy, and if you’re an appreciator of solid acting like me you’ll take note.
SPOILER AHEAD: I love the ending, not only because it follows along with how grim the film is already, but there’s a great point about monsters and horror movies. When Zina is tossed into the woods by the men from the club she visited at the film’s start, this is a statement about how we view monsters, in that Gorkic proves it isn’t just the inbred freaks out in the backwoods who are monsters. Seemingly normal men can be as monstrous as any so-called freak. It’s always the women that are in trouble.
screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-9-22-07-pmHonestly, I didn’t expect to find anything out of the ordinary here. Killbillies is a worthy 4-star horror, and it’s one of the better backwoods flicks of the past few years by far. The acting, the makeup effects, alongside beautifully captured exteriors in the Slovenian wilderness juxtaposed against the depressingly dark interiors (that cellar set is fantastic) – all of these pieces add up to a well-made and threatening whole. I’m also glad they didn’t go for full-on sexual violence. There’s a threat of it, and in the cellar scene we get terribly close to seeing more than just slight touching. In opposition to many American backwoods movies, this one never crosses that line, and is better for it. Gorkic hovers very, very close, though only suggests the depravity without requiring such ugliness visually.
It’s not all outright blood and gore, as Wrong Turn too often fell into over the course of the series, and director-writer Gorkic does a nice job working on the atmosphere to add a significant amount of dread. As I mentioned, not all the dialogue was great. Especially early on before the hillbillies strike, Gorkic could’ve tightened things up in a much better way. The story is so god damn good and the slight twist on the cannibal hillbilly characters is refreshing, as well as kind of funny in its own ways.
Despite its flaws, Killbillies was a surprise and a favourite horror of mine for 2016. Artsploitation Films has started picking up some awesome titles. I hope they’ll keep it up. Likewise, I’m hoping Tomaz Gorkic keeps up the genre work. The few mistakes made were minor, nothing that takes away from the creepiness or effective tension building in most sequences. Check this out when you can because I feel like some horror fans will share my enjoyment. You can’t please everyone. When a movie comes along that tries to be a bit different while working in the confines of familiar tropes, it’s at least worth watching once.

Scarce is Finger Lickin’ Bad

Scarce. 2008. Directed & Written by Jesse Thomas Cook and John Geddes.
Starring Steve Warren, Gary Fischer, Chris Warrilow, Thomas Webb, John Geddes, Jesse Thomas Cook, Stephanie Banting, Gavin Peacock, Matt Griffin, Jaclyn Pampalone, Jackie Eddolls, & Jason Derushie.
Bloodlife Films/Two Door Four Door Pictures.
Rated 18A. 93 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★1/2
POSTER Some movies are so bad they’re good. Others are just downright bad, to the point you’re unable to enjoy anything about them other than fleeting moments. Often times you can find enjoyment in a bad film because it’s fun to laugh, poke fun, point out all the bad effects, performances, and whatever else makes you chuckle a little. In certain situations depending on the film, this can make for a so-bad-it’s-good cinema experience.
Then there are horror flicks like Scarce, which cross over into the so-bad-it’s-embarrassing category. This little Canadian horror is never quite able to find its footing. A few scenes are creepy, a bunch are gory and nasty. Other than that it’s poor acting, uninspired directing, and a general mash of ill conceived attempts at tackling the backwoods cannibal horror it so clearly reveres.
Funny. I had a better time watching the Making Of documentary included on the DVD than I did watching the film. That’s only half a lie. I always try to find the good in each movie I watch, no matter how bad it gets. Problem being that there just is not good in every movie. Not all art is art – some of it’s pop, some of it’s art, some of it’s trash. Those are the odds. And odds are, you’ll also agree with me on this one.
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One of the immediately awful parts about Scarce is the fact it’s a Canadian production, clearly filmed in Canada and with Canadian actors, yet they’ve insisted on making it out as an American setting. First off, the accents of a couple actors give away this whole fact. Secondly, I’m not entirely sure why they would bother doing this when there are plenty of backwoods locations across Canada where you can set an isolated film such as this one. Often it’s to appear more commercial, though I’m still not sold on that being of any use.
Later, it isn’t just the performances that are weak. Even little moments that are meant to be scary or dramatic come off as weakened thuds, rather than landing with any impact. For instance, at one point Ivan (Steve Warren) whacks Dustin (Thomas Webb) as he exits the outhouse, and this not at all any type of large stunt, it’s not expensive or intricate, but it looks like absolute dog shit. Small moments like this come off as poorly conceived and executed, which does nothing for the film overall. Only makes the amateur, low budget feel of the movie more evident – this doesn’t always detract from independent cinema, only when it’s painfully obvious, almost pathetically so like here.
The acting is what really does Scarce no justice. While certain elements of the plot and a couple nasty bits of blood are intriguing enough, there’s no good acting to be found. And I don’t care how interesting of a story, or how creepy any of the scenes can get, without solid acting there’s no way any movie can rise above its flaws and feel enjoyable. Although, I have to give it to Steve Warren. Sometimes he can be the worst of them, in terms of performance. All the same, in comparison with his murderous counterpart played by Gary Fischer, his work is decent. In a couple scenes he’s terribly cheesy and forced, but every now and then he’s eerie beyond belief. So even if his acting isn’t close to great, he’s certainly one of the better parts about the performances even if he shits the bed in his role from time to time.
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The backwoods cannibal sub-genre in horror has been done time and time again. Many of us horror fans love a good dose of cannibalism, especially if it’s going down in the isolation of secluded, wooded areas. Right back to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a personal favourite of mine (and so many others), and all the way up to the mostly yawn inducing Wrong Turn franchise. Most of Scarce just feels lazy. As if the writer-director pair opted to take many of the cliched elements in the sub-genre and jam them into the single plot. A lot of the writing itself is lame. There are absolutely unsettling qualities. However, dialogue such as when Ivan talks about how they’ll soon be “nothing but [his] shit” and other of his/Wade’s ramblings make the story and the its characters more laughable.
Visually, there are some moments I enjoy quite a bit. The biggest is when Ivan and Wade take the guys out in the morning to let them free in the woods, before hunting them with a rifle, and there’s this excellently eerie piece of music from the score along with a stylized, brief sequence of Wade hauling the two victims by their chains, them bloody and worn down. This was a solid, if not too short scene. A little while later once the guys are running through the forest, there are some nice shots. It’s too bad this couldn’t have extended to the rest of the sequences where everything felt overwhelmingly bland. These couple minutes actually look great and then we quickly return to the film’s laziness.
Finally, it’s the hole blown in Ivan that takes the cake for best effect. They probably blew a large portion of budget on this one gag alone, as it’s a combination of CGI and practical work. Nevertheless, it definitely works, and the hole in his torso looks genuine. A nice dose of gore in the the final ten minutes to really try and impress us. Too little too late, but a noble effort indeed.
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I can’t give this any more than 1&1/2 stars. Even then I’m not totally sure it deserves that much. Still, there are little elements in Scarce that give you enough to hold onto, if only for a little while. You certainly won’t be blown away, by anything. Not once.
At the same time, give it a chance and at least see the effects. There’s a bit of sloppy gore, some wild blood. I own it simply because  I bought it on a whim for $10 somewhere. Definitely not something I’d seek out to buy otherwise. At least there’s partly some spirit of horror alive in this flick. Underneath so much less than mediocre fare.

McKee and Ketchum’s The Woman: A Brutally Poignant Microcosm of Misogyny

The Woman. 2011. Directed by Lucky McKee. Screenplay by Jack Ketchum & McKee.
Starring Pollyanna McIntosh, Brandon Gerald Fuller, Lauren Ashley Carter, Chris Kryzkowski, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Marcia Bennett, Shyla Molhusen, & Zach Rand. Modernciné.
Rated R. 101 minutes.
Horror

★★★★
POSTER
Spoiler Alert: This review in particular contains a large degree of spoilers re: finale and ending. If you’ve not seen it yet, don’t read too far, or don’t read at all. Watch the film. Come back. Have a look and a chat.

Both Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum are two artists I find incredibly interesting. Having already already collaborated together, in different forms, these two are a veritably nasty team. Dig it. And it’s because they understand some of the fundamental and nasty things about us as humans. A lot of what Ketchum in particular writes has to do with the basest desires of human beings. The Woman only further examines the lowest of the human spectrum going headlong into misogyny. Picking up around where Offspring, based on Ketchum’s novel of the same name, left off, this is the story of a lone woman from the cannibal clan of that first film. But more than that, more than Offspring, this is a horror film which speaks largely to the state of misogyny in our society, one that devalues women and runs by the rules and will of men. So many people pass the movie itself off as hatefully misogynist. And definitely, there are a number of brutal scenes that are violent, as well as sexually violent, even some others that suggest such things. This is undeniable. Underneath all that Ketchum and McKee explore a violent story that cuts to the heart of hate, speaking poignantly if not disturbingly about how the self-righteousness of men in believing they know what’s right for women is how dangerous misogyny, bred throughout generations, can take hold.
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The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) is left alone, the last remaining member of the cannibal tribe from Offspring. In the woods, she’s found by Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers); he is a country lawyer who takes her with a net, capturing her, intending on civilizing her to re-enter society. At home, his wife Belle (Angela Bettis), oldest daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), son Brian (Zach Rand) and youngest girl Darlin (Shyla Molhusen) are all living under the grip of his steel fist. When he brings the Woman back to his shed, chaining her up, the situation at home really starts to deteriorate. And Chris is discovered to have other secrets already cluttering up the family closet. But the Woman’s introduction into their home life only serves to bring about the most uncivilized behaviour in them all.


Chris continually believes he’s civilizing the Woman, as if he knows what’s best for her and that only he can help her achieve civilization. He says she lives by fulfilling her basest instincts. And yet what does he do to her when he gets the chance? Takes out his most base instincts upon her.
Ultimately, this is not what I’d call a feminist film. Rather it is an examination of issues that tie into feminism. Chris Cleek symbolizes the patriarchy in general. His wife is completely subordinate to him. He’s likely raped and impregnated his older daughter. On top of that, he takes the Woman, as if by duty, and tries to make her into what he believes is civilized. Using nets and cages and all those tools of the modern world, men are able to ensnare women and trap them for use as they see fit. This an element of nurture, of societal gender roles. When out in the wild, the Woman is fine on her own. In fact she’s survived this long, out there in that state. Nature does not make her weak. Only society does. Out of all the women here, the Woman is the toughest simply because she’s the last of the women to be indoctrinated under the patriarchal rule. Meanwhile, Belle and her daughter, even little Darlin, have been forced into that role of subordination, following along with what patriarch papa Chris has them doing. To the point of absolute madness. So while there’s a heavy degree of violence that is outwardly misogynistic, the message of this film is not misogyny. Ketchum and McKee take it on with their viciously satirical parallel to the modern treatment of women.


Part of the entire premise is the fact Chris represents the typical male sentiment of taking what is yours. That old misogynistic chestnut. This is the reason by which Chris comes to believe he can simply kidnap a woman in the wild, chain her up, then do whatever he feels like with her. The delusion is his own, making it seem as if it’s all in the interest of making her fit for society. Like a twisted, primitive vision of Pygmalion. Luckily for the Woman, Chris ends up slipping into complacency. When finally she appears to him tamed enough, that’s when she’s able to strike back. Because ultimately, she is the most powerful. She has only been weakened by the nurture aspect of Chris, or by proxy society. By nature, the Woman is more powerful than him. Which is why he had to blindside her in the beginning to capture her at all. Furthermore, that’s the whole deal with rapists, sexual abusers, et cetera, is that they’re too weak and hideous to get it without having to blindside women, drugging them, overpowering them by surprise, and so on. Chris is a microcosm of the misogynistic male in every way, shape, and form. Worst of all he leads by example, and his son Brian only learns how to be a hateful, piggish man that treats women as objects. This is another microcosm, of how the generational indoctrination of these mindsets and beliefs comes to pass. During the finale, even Belle gets served up a heavy dose of violence simply because she’s not managed to do something, anything, in order to help her daughters and save them from her husband’s disgusting urges.
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There are plenty of detractors. Although, The Woman is a 4-star bit of horror cinema. Looking at this is as the perfect microcosm of misogyny in society is the best way to view it. Not that’s it metaphorical. It is horror, raw and gory. Through and through. But you need to keep in the back of your mind that it’s meant to illustrate, in brutal fashion, the horror of misogyny. Pollyanna McIntosh gives a fearless performance, aided by Sean Bridgers as the menacing Chris and the rest of the excellent cast, each with their own talents. Both Lauren Ashley Carter and Angela Bettis are also wonderful playing very fragile, fractured women bearing the brunt of their own personal patriarch. The finale will likely leave your jaw agape, as the violence picks up wildly and bloody starts flying. It is a good bit of horrific fun that pays off all the misogynistic behaviour earlier in the film. Watch this, but beware, it is not an easy film to sit through at times. At least not for the uninitiated.

He Never Died: Henry Rollins at His Immortal Best

He Never Died. 2015. Directed & Written by Jason Krawczyk.
Starring Henry Rollins, Booboo Stewart, Kate Greenhouse, Jordan Todosey, David Richmond-Peck, James Cade, Steven Ogg, Elias Edraki, & Walter Alza. Alternate Ending Studios.
Rated R. 99 minutes.
Comedy/Drama/Horror

★★★★
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Immortality is an interesting concept. There have been so many books and films on the subject, many fictional characters we’ve come to know, love, hate. So when a fresh, unique take on a subject such as immortality comes around, it’s always at least a little fun.
He Never Died tackles the concept in a way you’ve likely not seen. Not to say the story or the writing reinvents the wheel. At the same time, there are so many different ideas explored through the lens of immortality in Jason Krawczyk’s film.

With plenty dark comedy, an odd family drama, plus a hefty dose of revisionist biblical history, He Never Died has a unique sense of horror that’s made even better with the inclusion of Henry Rollins in the lead role. You can find better written films, though, Krawczyk puts his heart into the darkness and the complications of this story, which ultimately make it exciting and filled with macabre oddities.
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The unique aspect of the story is its human element. We consider immortality and many realize it’s a dreadful prospect. Yet do we ever consider the actual logistics? Think of possibly fostering a family, then having to deal with losing them as you keep living, and they keep dying. Jack is a man whose enjoyment in immortality ran out a long, long time ago. He now has to contend not only with justifying his existence to a daughter. Furthermore, being an immortal cannibal is even worse than all that. You’ve got to get whatever’s necessary to stave off the appetite. So to watch Jack go through the human drama of life mixed with the intensity of being immortal is really something. Putting him with a daughter like that is clever, fun writing. Part of it is tragic, too. As Jack struggles with his own life, introducing a daughter into the whole shambling, messy affair that is his lie does nothing except exacerbate his already tough world. He keeps himself at arm’s length from everyone, family or otherwise. Because falling in love, caring, it only means pain down the road when he can’t die and those around him eventually will, no matter what happens. It isn’t just trying not to eat people that proves difficult. Just having an everyday life is bad enough when you’re immortal. Everything gets old after awhile. The routine and the tics of Jack’s life are continually intriguing, as they’re not the typical depictions of an immortal character in fiction.
Now I’m starting to question whether some of the people at Bingo in the local hall are immortal beings, passing the time away in the easiest places to not find an interest in people.
Apart from the emotional qualities of the story, there’s a nice dose of horror here. The first time we actually see Jack eating some human meat it’s a pretty gruesome affair. Definitely a nasty, violent scene. The action pieces are excellent, which showcase Jack’s fighting ability, as well as his resilience being incapable of, y’ know – dying. This renders him virtually indestructible.
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My only complaint is that, almost immediately, I knew that Jack’s character had to be some kind of angel, or a similar entity. Not only does the cover art reveal much of that, his heavy-handed scars are a tell-tale sign. This doesn’t ruin anything because there’s a constant mystery shrouding Jack overall, so it isn’t a negative. At the same time, perhaps more mystery would’ve done the plot better justice. As we watch the events unfold it’s interesting to try determining what or who Jack is truly. If his back wasn’t so vivid in a close-up early on, the idea that he’s some sort of angel (or whatever) might hold a hard punch. Instead it’s not so much a revelation, but a bit of fun. The writing is mostly good, definitely entertaining. Personally, I only wish there was more of thrill to this aspect, and that they left it a while later to reveal. Of course we don’t discover who he is until later, but that one early shot is a dead giveaway as to his origins. His need for blood is something that certainly held out awhile, something we don’t see and fully figure out until a nice way in. So there are parts of the story and plot that came together well. Other portions could’ve used more tightening. Despite the few narrative flaws, He Never Died has a quality screenplay from Krawczyk.
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Absolutely a 4-star affair. While there are certainly places in the script Krawczyk needed to tighten and get more subtle early on, he still does a fine job executing the subtleties he does include. With Rollins giving an awesome, moody, cold (in the right way) performance as the main character Jack, there’s a lot of weight held up. Anybody else might not have been capable of making him into the right sort of immortal entity required. But Rollins plays the man fed up with eternal life almost to perfection. Alongside that we’ve got some blood, a bit of action, all that dark comedy and the familial drama and the other interesting not usually covered aspects of immortality. So there is a lot to enjoy. Give this little flick a watch and find out what’s so intriguing about Jack and his inability to just lay down and die.

Disturbing Horror for Halloween Season

There are tons and tons of disturbing horror movies out there. I’ve seen plenty of them, but the titles on this list are some of my favourites. Not saying these are the most extreme, the most hardcore, I’m not touting these as the most disturbing horror movies you can watch. Simply, I think these are a good dose of movies running the gamut from thematically disturbing to graphically disturbing, to downright weird.
Without further rambling, here are my picks for a bit of wild horror to throw on this Halloween season, if October really has you feeling like you need to test your limits on film.
Enjoy…?


Possession (1981)
ecfslbxawaseotypjpcl3ibd2prFor my full review and discussion, click here.

The title says it all.
This is probably the strangest erotic horror-thriller you could ever imagine. Even saying erotic horror seems strange, but god damn if this is not full of both horrific and at times erotic imagery.
You could say this is a character study of two people in a relationship and what the ideas of possession mean for both involved.
To say any more would be to truly give things away. Honestly, go in knowing only a very basic plot – a couple falls apart as the wife seems to be having an extra marital affair, which proves to be something far stranger. Just know that when the horror hits you it is going to smash your face into bits, it may even rock you sexually in the worst kind of way imaginable.

Inside (2007)/ Trouble Every Day (2001)
inside-1 You can be guaranteed that if Beatrice Dalle is in it, I’ll watch it! So here is an excellent Dalle double feature which you can indulge on Halloween to scare the wits out of you.
First up is the 2007 home invasion horror-thriller Inside, directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo who also directed 2011’s Livid which was on another list I did for this October. This movie is just all out horror and highly female-centric: on Christmas Eve, a pregnant woman alone at home is attacked by a mysterious woman intent on getting inside the house, as well as inside that belly. If you’re pregnant, you may want to avoid this movie honestly, or if you’re super sensitive. Because this horror escalates, from a mild creep to a roaring scare. Be prepared. Also, this whole movie’s drenched in blood and gory bits. Excellently disturbing stuff!
Trouble-Every-Day_1 Second comes auteur director Claire Denis’ version of the cannibal film, Trouble Every Day. Starring Vincent Gallo and Beatrice Dalle, this is the story of sexual cannibalism in humans, as opposed to insects; starting with a husband and wife travelling to Paris for their honeymoon, the husband investigating a strange clinic, and ending with bloody horror. Hard to explain any of the ins and outs, I’d rather not ruin it any more than I already have with this explanation. Either way, Denis is a master filmmaker, someone of whom I’m a huge, huge fan, and this is a really gripping, unsettling movie out of her works. You won’t be sorry. This is disturbing, but it does have a great script held up by a couple solid actors like Gallo and Dalle in particular on whose shoulders the movie ultimately rests.
This is a solid double feature, which really shows off Beatrice Dalle’s talents. Also, it touches on two pretty touchy elements of human nature: pregnancy and sexuality.

The Devils (1971)
THE DEVILS - American Poster 1For a full review, click here.

Maybe this might not be totally considered horror. Honestly, though, if you don’t find Ken Russell’s The Devils horrific I’m not sure how your brain operates.
Both Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave give terrific, agonizing performances in their own right; Redgrave particularly gives a transcendent performance full of religious fervour and Satanic mania.
If you’re going to see this, you need to be able to see it uncut, in its entirety, as even while the most attainable version out there is pretty wild, the uncut version of this Russell masterpiece is unbridled psychosexual horror in its finest.
Just to give you a taste: there’s a scene known as “The Rape of the Christ”. Craziest part is that this whole film, the story and its plot, is partly based on a real story. Need a nice dose of disturbing religious horror? You found it in Russell.

Three… Extremes (2004)
50aee982-8647-40fa-9644-e45f71fc4f42-3_Extremes With three short films in one, this entire anthology only runs around 118 minutes, so you’ve got a great triple feature for the price of one!
Starting off with Dumplings, from Fruit Chan, the Asian horror gets churning with the story of an ageless woman who makes her signature dumplings for other women attempting to capture the elusive fountain of youth and its secrets. Hint: there’s something in the dumplings that ought not be there.
Cut by director Chan-wook Park is the tale of, funny enough, a film director and someone with a grudge. With a trap-like setup surpassing the interest factor of anything Saw ever had to offer, this short is sadistic and incredibly intriguing.
Finally, the short titled Box comes via notorious (and awesome) Japanese director Takashi Miike. I’d like to say a little, but would rather not spoil anything. Let’s just say it involves two sisters who were contortionists, they belonged to a carnival of sorts doing a trick involving a box, and then something bad happened at the carnival. No more, or you’ll know too much! Go in knowing only this: Miike is disturbing, if you’ve not seen his other work you should maybe get ready for a tense ride. Though, each of these shorts has their own test, I find something unsettling about Miike’s approach to stories, like he knows something the rest of us don’t.
Great watch if you don’t mind subtitles. It’s a really disturbing film all over, but Dumplings and Box particularly have always stuck in my mind.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)/ Tony (2009)

For my full review of Tony, click here.
For a full review of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, click here.
1990-henry-portrait-of-a-serial-killer-poster1 You’ll always hear about John McNaughton’s 1986 shocker when realistic horror is being discussed – raw and savage, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is one of the most unflinching portrayals of serial killers on film. With a central performance rivalling some of the best in horror, Michael Rooker embodies the loose, fictionalization of real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas; also included is the recently deceased and wonderful Tom Towles as another loose fictional version of Lucas’ actual partner for a time, Ottis Toole. The very brutal and simplistic style McNaughton uses only serves to unsettle the viewer with such an up close and personal view of the inside of a serial killer’s mind and world.
poster23 years down the road, after the release of the McNaughton cult classic, filmmaker Gerard Johnson gives us Tony – another film loosely based on a real killer (this time it’s British murderer Dennis Nilsen the Kindly Killer), this 2009 dramatic horror follows the titular character, Tony: on the spectrum, he is quiet, shy, lonely, disaffected and disassociated. However, at home, Tony cuts up the bodies of those he kills, draining their blood down the drains and the toilet, putting body parts and organs into plastic bags which he later casually dumps into the Thames. The reason Tony is so chilling, and why it’s a great double feature with McNaughton’s film, is because the movie takes us right behind the eyes of the central character – the at times sympathetic yet horrible killer – and never once do we make our way out of his perspective. At certain moments, the film is a slow burning character study; at others there’s an ominous sense of terror. Either way, you’ll be surprised as the film goes on just how depraved this quiet man in his council flat is deep down underneath his unassuming exterior.
Put these two films on – one American, one British – you’ll get an interesting look at the two sides of one coin. Dive into the darkness of the murderous mind!

The Last House on the Left (1972)
the-last-house-on-the-leftFor a full review, click here.

With the lofty goal of making a horror-thriller version of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, itself based on a medieval Swedish ballad, Wes Craven (R.I.P) – at the time a self-professed young and angry man – brought a new style of horror to the screen. There were certainly disturbing movies before 1972, however, Craven effectively brought the ‘rape-revenge film’ to the spotlight with The Last House on the Left.
The first time you see it, something will happen. Regardless whether or not you think Craven’s movie is excellent, mediocre, or not worth the time of day, you cannot deny there is most certainly a lasting impact. After you finish this one, there is a part of you that won’t ever feel the same. I can guarantee you that. Even as, what I’d like to think is, a hardened horror veteran, having seen literally 1,000+ horror movies, there is still consistently something truly disturbing about this one; I own it on Blu ray, though, it doesn’t get played much. Only when I’m looking for a true shock do I throw this on. You may never want to watch it again, but give it one go this Halloween. You may just lock your doors and forget all about the trick or treaters.

Snowtown (2011)
snowtown-1-posterFor my full review, click here.

You may notice the prevalence of movies based on true stories over the course of this list. And here’s another: based on The Snowtown Murders in Southern Australia, Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown focuses mostly on the budding relationship between serial killer John Bunting and one of the sons of a woman he dated at the time of the killings.
A lot of reviews and comments on the internet have stated they find the movie boring, either it’s too slow all around or they feel as if nothing much spectacular happens over the entire course of the film. I just don’t get that. This is a deep character study, once more akin to the earlier Tony/Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and we not only step inside the perspective of a serial killer, we’re bound to the perspective of Jamie – the son of Bunting’s quasi-girlfriend at the time – who did commit horrific acts alongside Bunting in real life. Here, the character of Jamie is mostly seen as sympathetic, both being abused by his half-brother and manipulated by Bunting, and through him the audience is able to both understand and be horrified at Jamie’s new life. Bunting is played amazingly by Daniel Henshall in what is – as far as I know – his first film role specifically; the performance is subtle and extremely unnerving. The whole movie is very involving, if you can forgive it’s at times slow pace. In the end, you’ll be thankful if looking for a disturbing horror, because this is one that really left its mark on me. I’ve forced myself to watch it a couple times and there are scenes in Snowtown burned into my brain; things I don’t necessarily want to see or think about, yet I’m drawn to, as the dark side of reality truly comes out in Kurzel’s film.

Excision (2012)
excision-poster1Anyone know AnnaLynne McCord? I didn’t, until this wonderfully macabre and disturbing bit of cinema. When I found out who she was, what she normally looks like, I was immediately impressed with her performance in this film – not only does she do a great job in her role, McCord physically transforms into another person. To say anything much would ruin the surprise, the sick, disgusting joy you’ll eventually take out of seeing all the nasty visuals of Excision come alive before your eyes.
Basically, this is the story of a young girl’s becoming – she is turning into a woman, mentally, physically. Yet the bloody beginnings of womanhood translate into something entirely different for this high school girl. She fantasizes about crimson waves, organs, tortured and mutilated male bodies, and so much more.
I’d never seen this movie, yet picked up the Blu ray because I found the description of the film, as well as its cover art, extremely intriguing. There’s not only disturbing horror here, the screenplay is full of sass, wit, and oodles of black comedy. Plus, John Waters, Ray Wise, and Malcolm McDowell all show up, so how is that not awesome? Choose this if you want to shake up your expectations, just make sure your stomach isn’t weak because a few moments in this movie really pushed my limit and that rarely, if ever, happens. Still, I love it and could actually throw this nasty little shocker on any time.

Grimm Love a.k.a Rohtenburg (2006)
grimm_loveFor my full review, click here.

Back once more are we to the reality of killers, the depraved and sick, twisted individuals lurking out in the material world, not simply characters banished to the abstract realm of film and television. 2006’s Rohtenburg (English title: Grimm Love) examines, not using the real names, the case of Armin Meiwes who was arrested in 2002 after police discovered he found a man on the internet, a willing participant, to eat; together, they attempted first to eat his penis together, after which Meiwes killed his companion, quartered him up, ate pieces and stored the rest in his deep freeze.
There’s a romantic aspect to the main characters of the film, mirroring the real life pair – even within all the sickness, the cannibalism, each of them and their intensely depressed states, these two men connected on a level most of humanity will never know. Still, no matter their intentions, no matter their feelings after meeting one another, these two men were fatally damaged, eternally flawed. While there aren’t too many graphic bits here, it’s the emotionality and intensity of the plot which makes things disturbing, very real. If you’re able to handle such a wild ride into some of the more twisted aspects of the damaged human psyche, then I suggest Grimm Love as an interesting way to spend an October evening.

Audition (1999)/ Contracted (2013)
audition-cover2 I want to preface this double feature by saying evil comes in all shapes and sizes, all forms, all ways.
The first of two evils is Takashi Miike’s Audition; not surprisingly, Miike shows up twice on this list, first in Three… Extremes. This 1999 psychological-horror starts off with a recent widow looking to start dating again, so with the help of a friend in casting he arranges to interview (or ‘audition’) women to become his new partner. However, after meeting the supposed new woman of his dreams, the man comes to discover she is not whom she appears to be at first. Beginning with a vague romance, this Miike film typically devolves into pure madness, controlled, but madness nonetheless. With some of the most unbearable torture in film history, this is not simply “torture porn” (hate that label; read other reviews to find out why). Rather, Miike brings psychological fear to life – from the fear of meeting someone new, to the thought of losing someone you love and having to start life over again – as well as touches the deepest, most visceral nerve possible in each of us.
contracted-posterFrom the story of a female torturer, we move to Contracted, starting its vicious and horrific descent into psychological/body horror with a cold and ruthless act committed by – this time – a man. People criticized the marketing of this film because it says “one night stand”, when clearly the young female lead is actually date raped at the start. However, unless I’ve not heard all there is in terms of press, I don’t think it’s intended this is meant as a LITERAL one night stand; merely, the tagline says “Not your average one night stand” in a dark, acidic way. Because once you get into this movie, you’ll realize England is trying to make you uncomfortable. Not simply for uncomfortableness sake: there is legitimate horror here. There are bits of David Cronenberg in here, with all the attention paid to the lead character’s body deteriorating after obviously having contracted a virus from the man who date raped her. Even more than that, I think England makes a few highly poignant points about the male mind, in terms of both the man who raped the film’s lead and the man who pines for the lead’s attention. I won’t spoil anything else.
This double feature is bound to leave you shocked, in awe, and maybe not in any kind of good way. Miike’s Audition came before the golden age of online dating, so I imagine it might touch more nerves today than even when it came out 16 years ago. Moreover, Contracted is the Eric England rape metaphor film we never knew horror could produce (the sequel leaves much to be desired) and while it has things to say the most of its power comes from the cripplingly nauseating visuals. If you want a downright unsettling double feature for Halloween or leading up to the special night, this one may be your Holy Grail.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Sleepaway-Camp-Poster By now, most anyone who is into slasher horror movies, even in the slightest, has definitely heard of the 1983 classic Sleepaway Camp. Not just that, they’ve definitely heard of, or have seen, the outrageous and terrifying twist finale. I will not spoil anything in the way of its big gem.
What I will say is that this movie is one of those genuine ’80s-era slashers which is deserving of its cult following and infamy. It isn’t perfect, nowhere near that, however, I’m a firm believer this is one of those top notch slashers simply because I NEVER ONCE SAW THIS TWIST COMING! I mean, fuck M. Night even on his best twist endings, this one is the RULER OF ALL TWIST ENDINGS. Sorry, I love Memento, I love The MachinistThe Sixth Sense was a whopper in its day, and there are plenty others… but SleepawayfuckingCamp just rocks all of them out of the water. Say no more. Want a good dose of by-the-lake horror and a finale that will haunt your dreams? You’re welcome.

Antichrist (2009)
1.inddFor my full review, click here.

Lars Von Trier is a name you can say in a room and find a hundred different opinions about from just a couple people: some think he’s trash, others (mostly those who’ve only seen his recent two-part Nymphomaniac) say he’s a pornographer, then there are those of us who think he’s full of unbridled, unadulterated genius. Sure, he doesn’t always hit the mark, but what filmmaker ever has? Not a single one in history has made a full catalogue of perfect movies. But Trier, each and every time at bat, steps up and delivers something, at the very least, worthy of endless hours of conversation.
His 2009 film Antichrist is the study of many things: misogyny + misogyny’s affects on womankind, relationship dynamics, parenthood, as well as so much more thematic material. Containing two of the bravest performances I’ve seen in the past 10 years, both Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are captivating. Most of this movie touches on subject matter and themes many will find, in moments, almost reprehensible – from genital mutilation on the part of men and women, to the death of a child while his parents have sex. It isn’t all provocation and in your face, nasty horror, Von Trier touches at the heart of issues in all his films, whether people wish to recognize it or not. No matter what, Antichrist will pull you in, chew you up, then spit you out. Then lap you up and chew some more until all the grizzle of your brain is digested. You may never ever forget these 108 minutes, no matter how hard you scrub that grey matter.

Calvaire (2004)
calvaire If you weren’t sufficiently disturbed and left sleepless by Lars Von Trier, I present to you the final offering of my list: Fabrice Du Welz’s 2004 psychological horror-thriller, Calvaire.
The movie follows a struggling entertainer, a singer named Marc, whose latest and slightly sad tour takes him out into the backwoods of Belgium. When he breaks down, Marc comes across an inn through the woods, owned and operated by a Mr. Bartel, the seemingly friendly and welcoming host. After the first night, though, Marc discovers Bartel is not as friendly as once it seemed – the man first stalls on fixing Marc’s vehicle like he promised, then when he tears the battery out and other parts, it’s very clear Bartel is up to something more sinister. Trapped at the inn, Marc’s journey falls quickly into a darkness he could never have anticipated, not in a million years, and the stay at Bartel’s inn transforms into a fight for survival.
This is another one I purchased blind on DVD, not knowing anything more than the description and reading a couple reviews online, as well as based on the neat cover art. When I first saw this, I was completely floored and still, even when I’m in the right mood, Calvaire is full of uneasy moments. There’s a slow burn quality to this one and things don’t jump right out, often the pace is snail-like, yet if you can make it through and continue to watch up to the end of the finale. you’ll be well rewarded in terms of disturbed emotions. And after all, that’s why you came to this list, right? Welz’s shocking psycho-horror is full of chills, thrills, and unwanted uncomfortableness. Watch, but only if you dare.


Here ends another list for the Halloween season! I hope those of you who’ve come to find something fittingly full of shocks and super nasty will walk away satisfied. I’m sure many horror hounds have at least heard of all these, most likely they’ve also seen them, too. If you’ve got any of your own suggestions, at 4,100 films watched it may have been something I’ve already seen – regardless, I want to know what everyone else finds disturbing and what you’re watching to get the creepy October-Halloween vibe happening. Let me know in the comments what you think of the list, or if you have suggestions for other nasties I should include in my own viewing list this season.
Cheers!

The Hills Have Eyes II: Horny Mutants

The Hills Have Eyes II. 2007. Directed by Martin Weisz. Written by Jonathan Craven & Wes Craven.
Starring Cécile Breccia, Michael Bailey Smith, Archie Kao, Jay Acovone, Jeff Kober, Philip Pavel, David Reynolds, Tyrell Kemlo, Lee Thompson Young, Danielle Alonso, Eric Edelstein, Jessica Stroup, Joseph Beddelem, Jacob Vargas, Ben Crowley, Michael McMillian, Reshad Strik, and Derek Mears. Dune Entertainment.
Rated R. 89 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★
hills_have_eyes_two_ver7Funny, as much as I find myself a Wes Craven fan, I didn’t realize until watching this again while reviewing it that he wrote the screenplay with his son Jonathan Craven. I think it’s a slight touch better than Papa Craven’s original The Hills Have Eyes Part II from 1985, which despite being a guilty pleasure of mine is still a horrid film; not in the right way, either. However, this version of The Hills Have Eyes II is still nothing great or special in any way, shape, or form. There’s little to enjoy.
I say that with a little sadness. Honestly, the original The Hills Have Eyes is a favourite horror classic of mine, as well as the fact I loved Alexandre Aja’s remake a tiny bit more even. So I expected, or more so I hoped, that maybe Aja would be involved. At least Craven was, though, his script is not very good.
When Martin Weisz was announced to direct, I’d actually anticipated something halfway decent. Personally, I am a big fan of his previous movie based on the real life case of Armin Meiwes – Rohtenburg a.k.a Grimm Love. That was a different and also horrific piece of horror mixed with drama. The real case is wild enough, but the presentation of a script written by T.S. Faull by Weisz makes things even more intense.
Unfortunately I don’t feel as if Weisz brought much, if anything, from the style he cultivated in Rohtenburg to add to this film. There are a few decently creepy moments, most of which come very early in, but there’s not enough of this or any solid script to make this into a decent movie. Rather, The Hills Have Eyes II is one of the worst scripts Wes Craven has had his hands on, and I’m left hoping Martin Weisz will recapture some of what he did with his previous film later on down the road.
21478_1Starting off we come to see how the mutants in the hills from the first film are holding a woman captive. Once she has birthed a child for them, she is killed. Afterwards, some scientists and members of the U.S Army are murdered by more mutants.
Cut to a group of National Guardsmen in training with their sergeant. They’re out on a mission resupplying scientists working in a camp in the desert, there from the U.S DOD doing surveillance; those same scientists from the beginning scenes. When a group of them head up into the hills after finding the camp abandoned, Napoleon (Michael McMillian) and Amber (Jessica Stroup) are left with the communications in punishment. In the hills, the soldiers find the mutilated bodies of the people they’re there to help. Back down near camp, Amber is attacked by one of the mutants who quickly runs off when Mickey (Reshad Strik) is returning to camp with a sprained ankle. But when Mickey gets hauled through a crack in the rocks, virtually eviscerated in one brutal pull, Amber and Napoleon realize there is something sinister at work.
Up on the mountain, everyone else is cut off from contact, and this gives the mutants plenty of things to do. What began as a routine re-up mission devolves into a fight for survival, as only a handful of the soldiers wind up alive and in good enough to shape to try and make it out of the hills alive.
the-hills-have-eyes-ii-shared-picture-china-1386828415Was there ANY need of such a disgustingly graphic opening sequence? I mean, I’m not saying the story is a bad idea. There’s no reason not to believe the hill mutant clan wouldn’t be kidnapping women in order to make babies. First of all, they’re mutants; they probably have no control over their impulses, whether to kill or to rape or whatever. Doesn’t surprise me. Second, they’re mostly concerned with survival. They kill to eat, so as primitive, basic humans – though mutated – they’re probably hardwired to try and procreate. They’re essentially cavemen.
But all that said, why show us right off the bat such an explicit birthing scene? Personally, I think there’s a way to be effective , then there’s this: hitting us over the head with gory nastiness immediately. It’s not even so much that it disgusted me – I’ve seen more than my fair share of gore and savage horror – I feel like it’s heavy handed. Even in the opening scene of the 2006 remake, there’s still brutality and a scary beginning. This one is a load of tripe.
I think had the Cravens decided to just go with the opening being the whole sequence where the National Guardsmen and the scientists from the U.S Department of Defense get attacked by the mutants, this movie would’ve opened much better. The way things start out here makes me think “Ew”, but not in the sense of being good for horror. It’s all shock without any substance.
lAgain later on in the film, there’s more mutant sex. This is something I’m really bothered by because there’s no need of it. At all. I am totally fine, as I said previously, with the plot having partly to do with the mutants in the hills carrying on their family, breeding, kidnapping women to do the deed. It’s nasty, but as a plot it’s understandable. But there’s no condoning having to show actual shots of a mutant raping a woman. Certainly there was no point to showing a GRAPHIC mutant baby birth at the very start, so it doesn’t surprise me that there was more useless shock horror down the line.
There’s a potentially creepy film in The Hills Have Eyes II. One of the big problems I had with Craven’s original 1985 sequel to his film was the fact there seemed to be a tenuous link to why everything was happening; from the dirtbike team to Ruby becoming Rachel, and so on. I like the idea of this movie as a premise – the whole National Guard angle and the DOD scientists in doing surveillance is good. Plus, I usually enjoy horror films that mix in a military storyline/action. However, with too much of the mutant sex being a focus and a much less defined atmosphere in comparison to Aja’s remake, both the Cravens and director Weisz fumble a solid opportunity to make a terrifying sequel.
The-Hills-Have-Eyes-2-DI-1There are a couple aspects I do like, honestly. To start, I did find a couple of the mutants and their makeup effects pretty awesome, as well as the fact they were unsettling. Derek Mears plays a mutant named Chameleon, whose ability to blend into his surroundings are obviously a perk for him. While it was different to see a mutant who has an ability, as opposed to merely a deformity or hideous appearance, I enjoyed it all the same. There’s an added bit of danger, obviously, when a cannibal killer can blend into rocks and walls.
Moreover, I found one of the mutants – the blind one – was a creeper. Very weird and scary! His look/face eminded me of one of the Cenobites from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and that’s always a good thing. The way he sniffed around everywhere in the darkness was terrible, in the best way possible.
So I have to say that while most of this movie is hugely disappointing, the mutants themselves and the makeup effects, their overall design, it was all pretty well executed. Doesn’t hurt that Greg Nicotero (who appeared as Cyst in Aja’s remake) and Howard Berger, along with a bunch of others from K.N.B EFX, were responsible for the makeup department, from the special effects to the hair to on-set makeup and design. These guys are classic. Even in shit films, I’m always pleased to see Berger/Nicotero & Co. in the credits because their work is usually pretty phenomenal. It’s no wonder they’ve become a staple in the horror movie business.

In the end, what hurts The Hills Have Eyes II most is that Jonathan/Wes Craven did not write a good script. I’d love to say this father-son team knocked one out of the park, because that’d be cool. Sadly, I cannot state anything so cool. The dialogue at times wasn’t too bad, yet most of the time I felt as if I was listening to a walking bunch of cliched U.S Army soldiers; the character of Crank especially made me want to punch holes in my eardrums. Even more damning is the fact that the characters themselves are pretty stupid. They make pitiful decisions. Now, I’m not one to criticize for little mistakes, or even the things people do when they’re scared – I’ve said more than once I put myself in the shoes of characters to try and feel their fear – but there’s no excuse for some of the behaviour these characters exhibit throughout the film.
What I did enjoy about the script was that Wes used little bits from his original sequel to throw in. Such as the whole hills location itself – in his first 1985 sequel, Craven had the mine shafts and all that happening. So here, there’s a much more elaborate version of that going on. Not sure if that was intentional or if the plot they wound up using simply lent itself to using the shafts, et cetera, but either way it’s one thing I liked about the film. There’s great atmosphere once down in the darkness there, as opposed to not much of anything going on before then.
Fun note – the shaft system was done by the same crew who worked on the excellent British horror The Descent, so no wonder the atmosphere and tone amped up once the film shifts to being mostly set down in the mine.
1348829106_1081550When it comes down to the nitty gritty, all the set pieces and makeup effects and interesting premises in the world do not an effective horror movie make. Although, I have to give The Hills Have Eyes II a 2 out of 5 star rating. I can’t deny there is some creepiness, from the suspenseful moments in the mine to the K.N.B makeup effects which made a couple new mutants look scary as hell.
But this Wes Craven script, written with his son Jonathan who has never written anything good honestly, is one if his worst. In fact, I’d almost say it is definitively his worst. I’d honestly put My Soul to Take, a near equally bad film, above this one; and that’s saying something! Mostly it saddens me because I hoped that with an absence of Alexandre Aja for the sequel to his remake Craven as screenwriter would make up for that. It did not, in any way.
My suggestion? Watch the original, or the remake, but this doesn’t have much to offer outside of some nicely executed effects and an eerie setting in the last half hour.

Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes Part II: A Bad Acid Trip

The Hills Have Eyes Part II. 1985. Directed & Written by Wes Craven.
Starring Tamara Stafford, Kevin Spirtas, John Bloom, Colleen, Riley, Michael Berryman, Penny Johnson Jerald, Janus Blythe, John Laughlin, Willard E. Pugh, Peter Frechette, Robert Houston, David Nichols, Edith Fellows, Lance Gordon, and Suze Lanier-Bramlett. VTC.
Rated 18+. 86 minutes.
Horror/Thriller


hills 2 2When it comes to The Hills Have Eyes Part II, I can’t say in any way that it’s a good movie. By the same token I like it, as in it’s enjoyable for me. Do you know what I mean? It’s one of those guilty pleasure films. Wes Craven shot a bunch of this before A Nightmare on Elm Street, but it got slowed down because of budget issues, then after Freddie Krueger rocked the world the studio got Craven to put together a film for this; except only using the footage already shot. The reason there are a ton of flashbacks used in The Hills Have Eyes Part II is due to the fact he didn’t have enough footage to make a full feature, so filling in all the gaps were bits and pieces from the first. Now, it’s not that which makes everything a mess here. Well… it’s not only that.
In comparison with the original 1977 horror classic, this sequel is not nearly as well written. Not sure what else Craven had planned originally for the movie. Because even some of the initial plot is truly hazy. There’s no real explanation for some of what continued from the first movie, as well as a good few scenes that come off as eternally cheesy, so much so it’s hard to even care about the characters because they’re mostly walking cliches and tropes. Perhaps had the studio allowed Craven to go back and reshoot, plus shoot more, there’s a possibility this sequel could’ve turned out much better. Unfortunately we’ll never know. What we’re left with is a bargain basement horror, filled with nonsense. It’s one of the handful of blemishes on an otherwise impressively terrifying horror movie career on the part of Wes Craven.

The Hills Have Eyes Part II begins with Bobby Carter (Robert Houston) seeing a psychiatrist, trying to work through the traumatic events which happened eight years ago in the first film. He and Ruby (Janus Blythe), now called Rachel, run a dirtbike team. They’re headed out into the desert for a race, nearby where the massacre from the first film took place. Bobby doesn’t want to go, though, his psychiatrist urges him to try and do it. Instead, Ruby/Rachel goes in his place with the team.
But out in that desert, after their bus breaks down, strange madness begins to take hold in the desert. Pluto (Michael Berryman) shows up out of nowhere, attacking Ruby/Rachel, but no one will believe her at first. Despite her warnings they head out into the desert on their dirtbikes, jumping and racing about. What follows is more murder and mayhem from the cannibal family in the hills.
Heroes - Beast - The Hills Have Eyes (1977)A part of this movie I always thought was just way too excellent, amongst the foolishness, is when Beast has his own flashback. After Pluto (Michael Berryman) attacks Ruby/Rachel (Janus Blythe), we go back to when Beast and Pluto met in the original. There’s just something about this sequence I find both hilarious and also amazing at the same time. I can just see Wes behind his writing desk, cackling to himself, thinking that the dogs ought to have their day, too.
large-screenshot1There’s nothing much to enjoy about this sequel. Sure, it’s fun to see Michael Berryman again. He’s an excellent character actor in horror movies. His condition – not sure what it’s called but I believe one of the things it causes is no sweat glands – lends a bit naturally to playing an outsider, so I love that he willingly takes on these weird, psychotic roles, or just the strange and outlandish ones. He’s absolutely a treasure of the horror genre and continues to be.
However, seeing him is not enough to make any of the film worth sitting through. Not to mention the fact so much of the other acting here is downright terrible. I’m not even sure what the one guy’s name is – the loud mouth one always cracking jokes and laughing and being obnoxious – but I cared so little about him I didn’t bother to remember who he was – Harry? I’m going with Harry. His acting was incredibly bad. I don’t know if it was mostly him or mostly Craven’s writing. Certainly overall, the script does not help in any way.
TheHillsHaveEyesPart2-2That’s another thing. I happen to think Wes Craven is a pretty solid writer, most of the time. He has a few scripts I don’t find particularly intriguing, but I think a lot of his stuff is great horror. The Hills Have Eyes Part II is in no way a representation of his best writing, not in any shape or form. The dialogue is all stilted, as opposed to a lot of fun and creepy stuff which came out of the first film’s script. The characters are beyond generic; even worse, I happen to think Craven is decent enough at writing black characters most of the time, but his attempt to write the character of Foster (Willard E. Pugh) here is laughably bad.
My biggest beef is that we’re never fully explained anything concerning Ruby/Rachel and Bobby. It just makes zero sense to me. Why does Ruby bother to change her name? As if the census taker is going to come around wondering why Ruby from the hillside cannibal clan is now living in the city? I think not. It’s sort of silly, as if she’s escaping her past in a Witness Protection Act. Meanwhile, she goes back out into the desert with the dirtbike team. Why? She knows what’s out there. Bobby was smart enough not to go, I just don’t see in what universe Ruby would subject herself to going back out there; she clearly would realize if Pluto or any of the other mutants found her, they’d be pretty pissed, I think. Regardless of how the studio made Craven go back and work with things he’d already shot without being able to film additional footage, there’s no excusing a lot of lapse in intelligence that can be found in even some of the most basic elements of Craven’s script.
I can’t say there’s no way he would’ve been able to make this into a decent film, but it’s unlikely either way. The script is far too weak to start. Unless he planned to do rewrites if given the chance, I think we can certainly chalk this one up to a badly formed script on his part and that perhaps it would’ve been better off – on ALL fronts even his and the studio – just to leave The Hills Have Eyes as a standalone film.
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (2)Having gone through all the awful aspects about this movie, I can still put it on and enjoy it. Isn’t that strange? I’m not sure what it is. There are just movies I can sit through and get enjoyment out of even while they’re virtually useless. I like some of the music in the film, as well as the fact there are a couple genuinely creepy scenes. Outside of that, there’s nothing I can say is good. There’s simply a quality to this horrible and needless sequel that I can’t seem to shake; it sticks on me like a wet fart. But it’s a wet fart I happen to love, as bad as it is for me to enjoy.
This is a 1 star film simply because there’s a glimmer of something here, whatever it is I can’t tell but it is THERE. I’m telling you. Perhaps it’s the fact Beast is so prominent throughout a couple scenes, maybe I’m too attached to animals – dogs in particular. I’m not sure now, never have been, and I can’t be positive that I’ll ever figure it out. I think, above all, my lament for Wes Craven’s sequel takes precedence: I wanted this so badly to be a decent movie. There are a couple eerie moments, enough to make things creepy from time to time, but ultimately not enough for anyone else to call this even remotely a mediocre horror.
Don’t waste your time unless you’re a completist. Most likely you’re not crazy like me and you won’t find anything endearing about this dog turd of a Craven flick.

Hannibal – Season 2, Episode 12: “Tome-wan”

NBC’s Hannibal
Season 2, Episode 12: “Tome-wan”
Directed by Michael Rymer (Queen of the Damned)
Written by Chris Brancato/Bryan Fuller/Scott Nimerfro

* For a review of the previous episode, “Ko No Mono” – click here
* For a review of the next episode “Mizumono” – click here
IMG_1751Hannibal: “You put the snare around my neck. Why did you tell Mason Verger I want to kill him?”
Will: “I was curious what would happen
IMG_1755Opening scene here in “Tome-wan” sees Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) with Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) as they discuss the new predicament, which Will partially instigated in the finale of last episode, with Mason Verger (Michael Pitt). I love how Graham is totally open and honest with Hannibal; we can feel him draw the big fish in, luring him with the shine and now it’s all the big fish can think about. He’s slowly coiling himself right in the lap of Hannibal, though, for all the naughty doctor’s brilliance he can’t seem to figure that out. It’s because he’s madly in love with Will.
Moreover, he allows Will to be a part of himself unaccepted anywhere else. Hannibal is the only person Will Graham can truly be himself with. In this episode, Hannibal tells Will to close his eyes and imagine what he’d like to happen. What it is becomes a dream sequence, on Muskrat Farm, where Hannibal is strung up and Graham slits his throat; a beautifully grim, bloody affair. Will smiles as he comes out of this sequence. He imagines killing Hannibal, yet Hannibal allows him to be that dark part of himself society will not suffer.
Hannibal: “Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude.”
Will: “Freerange rude
Hannibal: “Would you join me at the table?”
Will: “Mason Verger is a pig and he deserves to be somebodys bacon. Maybe you should kill Mason during your next session.”
Mason Verger ups his rudeness in the officer of Dr. Lecter. First, he flicks through sketching papers of Hannibal’s, insulting them by calling some drawings crap, tossing them about. Then, he sits at the doctor’s desk. Even has the audacity to put his feet up on the desk. Furthermore, Mason hauls out his blade – the one his dear papa used to check the fat of the pigs by sticking it into them a little bit – he brandishes it initially at Lecter, right at his throat. Mason sinks it into one of the doctor’s nicely upholstered chairs in the office, jabbing at it a few times before coyly apologizing and saying “send me the bill“. True psychological duel between these two, which makes their tense relationship all that more tense.
Afterwards, Hannibal and Will go see Margot Verger (Katharine Isabelle) in the hospital after her recovery. She’s clearly broken slightly in her spirit. No matter the strength she can show going forward, there is a part of her always shattered by the monster in her brother Mason. Taking away her reproductive organs, he makes Margot’s quest for an heir even worse, but most of all he takes away her choice as a woman; it’s a truly misogynistic violence Margot inflicts on his sister, which irks even Hannibal, let alone Will the father of her child who nearly tossed Mason in with his pigs.
Jack: “Dont let empathy confuse what you want with what Lecter wants
Now we’re also seeing Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) in the mix. He’s not pleased with Will; ole psycho Graham went a bit nuts with the whole Randall Tier thing, mutilating the body. Jack is made aware of the Verger situation. While the plan Will has is flimsy at best, Jack apparently has a backup – claiming “Im a good fisherman too, Will.” In the FBI interrogation room, the red dress flows around Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson); whom if I’m not mistake we last saw when she told Will she believed him, as he rot in a cell at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
At first it appears she wants to help, seemingly apologetic for not saying enough at the hospital. Instead she disappeared awhile. Curious? Hmm.
IMG_1758 Either way, Will gets down to the nitty gritty and tries to get some more information about the man that is Hannibal Lecter – or, information about whatever lies behind that human veil. Graham brings up the patient formerly under care of Lecer, the one who swallowed his tongue while attacking Bedelia in her office. She reveals to Will: “I killed him. I believed it was selfdefense, and to a point it was. But beyond that point, it was murder. Hannibal influenced me to murder my patient; our patient.”
Will: “You weren’t coerced?”
Bedelia: “What Hannibal does is not coercion, it is persuasion. Has he ever tried to get you to kill anybody? He will. And it will be somebody you love. And you will think it’s the only choice you have.”
What I enjoyed most about these moments with Bedelia is how Jack is now seeing everything clear for the first time. It isn’t simply Will Graham ranting and raving about Hannibal, trying to make the picture perfect for all to witness. Bedelia is full-on telling Jack that Dr. Hannibal Lecter is not at all who he appears to be. She further goes on to say it will be his self-congratulation, his “whimsy” that becomes his ultimate downfall. Funny enough, that really becomes the case in Season 3 (as it is in the Thomas Harris novel Hannibal), so I think they were definitely thinking ahead writing that moment in the script.
Will (to Hannibal): “You dont want me to have anything in my life thats not you
There has been a long while since Will knew Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper, but now the veil has truly dropped and the blinders have lifted from his eyes. He and Hannibal are on equal terms, seeing each other with new eyes. They need one another, as Will puts it. He says they’re both alone without one another. It’s an eerily touching moment between two damaged men; certainly one more than the other, but damaged nonetheless.
However, while Will and Jack seem to have a handle on things, and the truth is being revealed, Bedelia Du Maurier warns Crawford that if they believe they’re about to catch Hannibal then it’s only because that’s what Lecter wants them to think. I like that moment because it’s not only true, the look on Jack’s face tells the tale – he worries about how true that may be.
IMG_1759Following this is a scene, another dinner, with Hannibal and Jack. There’s great significance to the meal itself – I won’t spoil it, watch and listen carefully; sums up the whole situation between Will and Hannibal perfectly, the inability to understand who is pursuing whom at this point. At least for the outsider. Regardless of how dangerous and slippery Hannibal is, Will hopefully still has a grasp on himself enough to see things through to the end.
Or, does he?
The greatest part of “Tome-wan” is when Mason Verger’s henchman Carlo Deogracias (Daniel Kash) takes Hannibal hostage. Lots of action, intensity, as well as blood and gore even in the finale.
First, though, we see Hannibal hanging alongside where the pig pen at Muskrat Farm is located. Surprisingly to both us and Lecter, Will is standing there with Mason. It looks like Verger is going to have Hannibal’s throat cut, then feed him to the pigs feet first, so they can nibble a bit.
But that’s not how Will Graham plans to see it all go down. Whether this was a plan or not in the beginning, I’m not sure. Either way Graham decides to opt out and let Hannibal free to do some nastiness, which we get only a brief and foggy glimpse of before Will passes out.
Like that touch – Will wakes up in the aftermath. Blood streaks all over the platform above the pig pen. In with the pigs on the rope where Hannibal had been suspended is half of one of Mason’s henchman.
But the best is yet to come. Now we get what was only alluded to in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal after the fact, and what only came as reminiscing from Mason in Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name: the bloody disfigurement of Mason’s face. Hannibal blasts him to the moon on some drugs, then uses his best tool – persuasion, manipulation – to convince Mason he ought to show off how papa Verger used to check the fat on his piggies; except on himself.
IMG_1763 Cut to Graham showing up at home, where Mason is sitting in the living room feeding bits and pieces of his gory face to Will’s dogs. They happily lap up what he gives them while Mason tells them to sit and be good, serving up pieces when they respond. He’s full of blood and messy all over, though, we don’t see it all fully. They filmed the terrifying makeup effects of Mason’s disfigured face in such a dark, shadowy frame that while it’s intense, it isn’t over-the-top. At least not to me, as a hardcore horror hound. I love it! Just enough to make it incredibly sickening and disturbing.
Will Graham’s ideas backfired. He couldn’t lure Hannibal into a trap because the naughty doctor had already done some nasty stuff. Hannibal also snaps Mason’s neck, just right, so that he’ll have to live on as a crippled man unable to walk. This also plays against Graham’s plan he laid to Jack, as Mason only wants revenge now instead of any part of him looking for justice. Everything works into Hannibal’s hands, yet in a twisted sense.
IMG_1764Then at the same time, Jack is worried about Will and also the influence of Hannibal Lecter. He’s still on the edge, not sure what Will is doing or how it is playing out, and rightfully so, as he visits the now crippled, masked Mason Verger in his home.
I love the last scene of the episode between Hannibal and Will. Graham tells him: “Were going to get caught.” Then they have an interesting conversation about giving Jack “what he wants“, as in the Chesapeake Ripper. Will says to let him “see you with clear eyes“. While a terrible monster, Hannibal still recognizes that Jack is his friend and so we’re about to see some things come out in the last episode that will bring us back to that moment in Episode 1 of this season – the fight between Jack Crawford and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
IMG_1767Next episode is the Season 2 finale, “Mizumono”, directed by David Slade (30 Days of Night). An impressive episode followed by this equally impressive chapter.
Stay tuned, Fannibals!